What people REALLY mean when they say…
“But I believe the WHOLE Bible.”
It’s a very common phrase in Christian circles. We’ve heard it, maybe we’ve said it…
In the course of bringing the reality of Jesus’ Kingdom to the church, there’s often no shortage of those trying to balance the radical “otherness” of it…folks try to bring “context” to it, using other verses to make more practical the extreme nature of Jesus’ words…because they stumble upon things that just don’t seem sensible to them, especially this new way of living Jesus was proposing.
I mean think about it:
Love your enemies?
Die for enemies instead of killing them?
Blessed are the meek?
The least are the greatest?
The last shall be first?
Put away your sword?
And so, those who struggle with such a life commitment to follow Jesus pull this ace from their sleeve:
“But I believe the whole Bible, not just what Jesus said.”
It may sound good on the surface, but here’s what it can really mean,
“I don’t particularly care for what Jesus said in this passage, but I know of another one that might temper it. See, I believe the WHOLE bible”.
I’ve heard it expressed a little more directly at times:
“Yes, Jesus did say to love your enemies, but Jesus is the SAME God who dealt retributively in the Old Testament, so certainly He didn’t mean we have to love ALL our enemies. I’m going to go ahead and believe the WHOLE Bible, thanks.”
Sadly, sometimes the cleverest way to hide from Jesus is behind a Bible. If you want to completely run away from the example and teachings of Jesus you can do so without ever leaving the pages of Scripture. In John 5:39 we find Jesus rebuking the religious leaders for using the Bible as a shield to avoid this radical new way of living he was proposing. In that exchange He tells them that they had missed the entire purpose of Scripture; Himself.
Jesus went onto explain it using an analogy in Matthew 7:24 of house building – at the end of the analogy Jesus explains, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of MINE and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24)
Notice He didn’t say, “everyone who reads the law of MOSES and puts it into practice is like a wise man…” but said, “everyone who hears these words of MINE…” Notice the evidence we belong to God isn’t that we live like Moses or Joshua, or anyone else in the Bible – but Jesus, full of grace.
When someone stumbles upon something Jesus said and responds with, “But I believe the whole Bible” they are engaging in a 2,000 year-old trap of the enemy, becoming the foolish builder in the story who refused to build the house on the only thing that was worth building on…the WORDS of Jesus.
You see, the point of God’s story is Jesus. It’s always been a story about Jesus. It’s never been about anything else. The entire purpose of the Christian life is to live, and by the Spirit, express Jesus individually and as community, His Kingdom– right here, right now. Not anyone else in the Bible, but Jesus.
Whenever there is tension between something Jesus said and something from elsewhere in the Bible, the tiebreaker always goes to Jesus. ALWAYS.
That’s because Jesus said the entire point of Scripture was to bring us to the place where we’d know and follow HIM. Just Him. No one and nothing gets to share His place. Not other individuals from the Bible OR EVEN THE BIBLE ITSELF.
So, when someone responds to the teachings of Jesus with, “But I believe the whole Bible” it can be a sign that one is on the run from the reality of (not the theory of) Kingdom life and using the very words designed to more deeply connect us to Jesus as a get-away car.
But it is our job to keep pointing people back to Jesus – fellow Christians, as unpopular as that may be. Because…
Jesus is the point.